Friday, June 29, 2007

The Kings of New York

The Democrat-controlled Senate of Wisconsin has passed a bill providing universal health care for Wisconsin residents. It has a tough road ahead of it in the Republican controlled House, for which I am glad. I am fully in agreement that a solution needs to be created to help all of those who are unable to afford health insurance or whose employer doesn't offer it, but I'm concerned about the government having a say over my health care. Already Wisconsin has proven that it is incapable of taking care of those in the Badgercare program. Badgercare provides health insurance to those who are under a certain income level, and participants pay small co-pays, and some pay premiums according to their income, while the rest is state funded. The problem is trying to find a provider who accepts Badgercare patients. A letter ran in last week's Green Bay Press Gazette from a Badgercare subscriber whose child was in desparate need of dental care. The closest dentist willing to take on Badgercare patients is in Kenosha, over 3 hours away. A local dentist responded to the letter explaining that dentists can't really afford to take on these patients, because the state isn't paying the dentists enough to compensate their time. Dentists would lose money on Badgercare patients, so they just don't accept them. I can't blame them. Wisconsin should be either fully funding Badgercare so that providers are available in all areas, or it should stop the program entirely and declare it the failure it is.

The King of New York by Michael Weinreb follows the kids in American's top high school chess team. The students at Edward R. Murrow high school in New York have a different kind of education than most students receive. They are allowed an unusual amount of freedom in this unique school started in the 1970s. Eliot Weiss, the school's math teacher, decides to start a chess team in this fostering environment and over time builds it up as a true force on the national chess circuit. Weinreb introduces several students on the team along with movers and shakers in the chess world while teaching the rudiments of the game and tossing in some history as well. All of these elements make for an entertaining read. The players are the Eastern European immigrants you would expect, but many of the star players are Hispanic or black. Murrow encourages diversity, and this spills over to the chess team. Weinreb does a good job of replicating the tension in the sport, but where he often falters is in his use of profanity. When he's quoting team members, profanity is inevitable, but when Weinreb uses it in his commentary, it distracts from the enjoyment of the story. I've read other books similar to this, like Cross-X, and these books fail when the author feels compelled to insert himself into the story. While Weinreb doesn't do that directly, his political views are overt and unnecessary. This book succeeds in portraying the intricate world of chess as well as how the young men (as most of them are) either rise or fall completely on their own actions. It's a great commentary not only on chess but on the public school system in New York as well.

Insomnia is back with a vengeance. I didn't see sleep until 6 am. The doctor has doubled my dose of Lyrica. I really hope that this works as well as he seems to think it will.